BOOK BITES | Edel Coffey, AJ Pearce, Ilyon Woo

This week we feature a gripping head spinner about the dilemmas of 'the other woman', a nostalgic peek into elite society in times of war, and a couple's epic journey to freedom from slavery

09 June 2024 - 00:00
By GILL GIFFORD, Thango Ntwasa, Gabriella Bekes AND Jennifer Platt
In Her Place by Edel Coffey.
Image: Supplied In Her Place by Edel Coffey.

In Her Place ****
Edel Coffey
Little, Brown

This book offers interesting dilemmas that disturb and make one think and question one's own values. Not only is it a good story but it's gripping and twisty and nothing is straightforward. Ann is an attractive, floaty single in Brooklyn, New York, feeling lost in the world after the death of her mother, who she spent the past three years nursing. She is struggling financially and battling to get her journalism career back on track. Enter Justin, a seriously rich older man with a six-year-old daughter and a wife who has been in a coma for years and is not expected to survive much longer. They meet, there's a bunch of sparks and things work out perfectly. But then, unexpectedly, Justin's wife wakes up and wants to come home. She has no idea that Ann is "in her place". Four big stars for this little head spinner. — Gill Gifford


'Mrs Porter Calling' by AJ Pearce.
Image: Supplied 'Mrs Porter Calling' by AJ Pearce.

Mrs Porter Calling ***
AJ Pearce

If you’re in need of a warm hug of a book, Pearce's comforting foray into the world of an agony aunt is probably your best bet. While the book is the third in a series following the lead character, Emmy Lake, Pearce takes her time in exploring the writer's world and life as a columnist for the magazine Woman's Friend. When the publisher of the magazine dies, Mrs Porter waltzes onto the scene and sends Emmy's life into a tailspin. Hoping to compete with the glossy magazines of the 40s, she seeks to turn the magazine into a beacon of light, with the realities of war staring them all in the face. A great read if you love nostalgia and a peek into what life is like for elite members of society in times of war. This might irritate some as the world problems are glossed over — the book is pure escapism. Thango Ntwasa



'Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom' by Ilyon Woo.
Image: Supplied 'Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom' by Ilyon Woo.

Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom ***
Ilyon Woo
Simon & Schuster

This fascinating true story set in the American South in 1848 is about a couple who escaped slavery, travelling hundreds of miles from Macon, Georgia, via the free states in the north, Philadelphia, Boston and finally to Britain, under extremely dangerous conditions. Ellen Craft, a light-skinned black woman who was disguised as a sickly young white man, travelled with her husband William as her slave. Riding trains, boats and carriages, they made the perilous journey after fleeing their enslavers. In constant danger from slave hunters, the couple reached free Philadelphia but were still not safe because of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which ruled that all Union citizens were responsible for the recapture of slaves who had fled the South. By now the couple had become celebrities for their daring escape and were stars on the abolitionist speaking circuit, gaining popularity in the free states. But with a bounty on their heads by their former enslavers, the Crafts left for Britain, where they continued their abolitionist work to acclaim. Just a decade after the Crafts left the US, the American Civil War broke out between the North and South after secession by the South on the economics of slavery and the spread of slavery to the west. The Crafts' activism and quest for freedom is meticulously researched and extremely readable. — Gabriella Bekes